The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are part of the Leeward
Islands group of the Lesser Antilles (see fig. 1). They are located
about 113 kilometers south of Anguilla and 300 kilometers southeast
of Puerto Rico. A narrow strait 3.2 kilometers wide separates the
two islands. Total land area is 269 square kilometers, which makes
the nation about the size of San Antonio, Texas.
Geologically, St. Kitts and Nevis are hilly or mountainous and
volcanic in origin, representing adjacent peaks in a chain of
partially submerged volcanic mountains. Both islands are subject to
subterranean seismographic activity, which sometimes results in
earthquakes. Lava deposits on the windward side of St. Kitts attest
to the area's volcanic past.
St. Kitts, the larger of the two islands at 168 square
kilometers, is shaped like an oval with a long neck and a small
peninsula at its southeastern end (see fig. 15). The peninsula is
flat and consists of salt ponds and white beaches. Towering
mountains extend through the central part of the island, running
from southeast to northwest. Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcanic
cone with an elevation of 1,156 meters, is the highest point on the
island. Brimstone Hall, on the southwest side of the island, is 229
meters high and is composed of volcanic rock covered with a layer
St. Kitts' fertile soil is well watered, has adequate drainage,
and usually requires little or no irrigation. Forested areas cover
4,500 hectares of land and include both rain forests at the lower
altitudes and evergreen forests above 250 meters. There are 7,700
hectares of agriculturally productive land, much of the soil
consisting of a clay base. An acute erosion problem persisted into
the late 1980s on certain parts of the island. Erosion was a result
of a mineral deficiency caused by a lack of crop rotation,
overgrazing, and inadequate intercropping.
Cone-shaped Nevis is ten kilometers wide, thirteen kilometers
long, and has a total land area of ninety-three square kilometers.
Nevis Peak, in the center of a chain of mountains, is the highest
point on the island at 965 meters. Its rugged, heavily forested
slopes rise gently from the sea. The soil on Nevis Peak is
weathered; soils everywhere on Nevis are generally less fertile
than those on St. Kitts and have experienced much worse erosion.
Water is plentiful in the higher elevations. There is no rainy
season on Nevis, but showers can be torrential. There are several
hot mineral springs on the island.
Both St. Kitts and Nevis have a tropical climate tempered by
the northeast trade winds; there is little daily or seasonal
variation. Temperatures generally range between 18°C and
average approximately 26°C; lower temperatures prevail in the
higher elevations. Humidity is generally about 70 percent. Annual
precipitation varies from 100 to 300 centimeters. Neither island
has the distinct rainy season characteristic of many other
Caribbean islands. Winds are predominantly easterly and seldom
exceed nineteen kilometers per hour except during the islands'
hurricane season, which occurs from July to September.
Data as of November 1987